The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF virtual intervention. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
>> DAVID KIRKPATRICK:
Well, welcome to the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition Session on Connecting People Everywhere.
My name is David Kirkpatrick.
I'm a journalist with a group called Techonomy Media in New York and a big supporter and believer in the ITU's mission and in the work that we're discussing here today. So we're going to have a really dynamic conversation with a bunch of fantastic speakers.
I'm going to quickly tell you who they will all be.
So before ‑‑ as soon as I finish speaking, you will hear from Doreen Bogdan‑Martin, Director of Telecommunication Development Bureau at the ITU.
We'll also hear from Pamela Coke‑Hamilton, who is Director General of ITC.
Walid Mathlouthi, who is Head of the Future Network and Spectrum Management Division of the ITU.
We'll hear from Her Excellency Ursula Owusu‑Ekuful, Minister of Communications and Digitalization of Ghana.
We'll hear from Joakim Reiter, Chief External and Corporate Affairs Officer of Vodafone Group.
And Eleanor Sarpong, Deputy Director and Policy Lead for the Alliance for the Affordable Internet at the Worldwide Web Foundation.
His Excellency Mohamed Shareef, Minister of State for Environment, Climate Change, and Technology for the Maldives.
Heidi Schroderus‑Fox, Director of the UN‑OHRLLS, which is the Small States, Island States, Landlocked Developing States.
I never get that acronym right, but it's a very important entity in the UN that's she'll be talking about and how they view connectivity.
Maria Francesca Spatolisano, Officer‑in‑Charge, Office of the Secretary‑General's Envoy on Technology, and Assistant Secretary‑General for Policy Coordination and Inter‑Agency Affairs at DESA of the UN she'll be speaking fairly early in the program.
And Maikel Wilms, Partner & Director of BCG, will also be participating and give us a full picture of what's going on in terms of the data and strategy here. So very happy everyone is with us.
Thank you for coming in from all around the world.
Let me now turn it over to Doreen.
>> DOREEN BOGDAN-MARTIN:
Thank you so much, David.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure to welcome you to this IGF Session on Connecting People Everywhere.
As you may know, on the sidelines of this year's General Assembly in New York, ITU launched the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition in cooperation with the Office of the Secretary‑General's Envoy on Technology.
P2C is a brand new partnership platform aimed at driving access to meaningful connectivity and digital transformation in the hardest to connect communities, including those in LDCs, LLDCs, and SIDs. While it's still the early days, I would say the response and progress to date has been impressive.
We have some 187 expressions of interest to join the coalition from different stakeholders around the world.
We had a successful kickoff with leaders of the coalition.
We're working closely with our sister agency, that as David says, is a hard acronym to pronounce, UN‑OHRLLS, I'm happy to see Heidi with us today.
We're working with them on a milestone event scheduled for January 24th.
So save the date during the Private Sector Forum of the Fifth UN Conference on LDCs, known as LDC 5.
It will take place in Doha.
We also welcomed BCG as P2C's knowledge partner.
I'm happy to see Maikel physically present in Poland and we've began to draft the framework of action and the pledges that we will need to mobilize resources, partnerships, and commitments to achieve universal and meaningful connectivity. And from next week, and I'm excited about this, we'll be hosting our first calls with coalition working groups to advance these different frameworks. Our P2C model is based on four core focus areas: Connecting people everywhere, empowering communities, building digital ecosystems, and incentivizing investments.
I think it's no coincidence that we picked the IGF as the ideal venue to dive deeper into the details of Focus Area 1, Connecting People Everywhere, because of course the headline theme of this year's IGF is Internet United.
That dream of universal global citizenship and a cohesive, inclusive online community, in which every person on the planet has the chance to engage, interact and to make their voices heard will be so important in defining the shape of tomorrow's internet, and of course in achieving the UN's vision of the world we want. It's a powerful vision but right now it remains a distant one.
Last week, ITU released its latest facts and figures on global connectivity.
We were able to announce some encouraging news in the form of unusually strong growth in internet penetration during the two years of the pandemic, but, and I stress but, nonetheless we estimate that 2.9 billion people have never, ever been online. Of course, that results in a digitial divide that's no longer just a technology divide.
It's actually an opportunity divide. We need to find ways, innovative ways, to get those that are still offline access to connectivity and all the things they're missing out on that can improve their lives.
That means strategies to drive access, and when I say access I mean the availability and of course the affordability of devices and data, together with strategies to drive adoption.
And here we're talking about digital skills.
And localized, actionable, and compelling content.
Today's session we will gain a better understanding of the key issues that are currently impeding universal, resilient, and trustworthy connectivity, as well as the types of pledges, actions, and commitments needed to address those barriers, and guided by our incredible partners, our distinguished speakers, we want to dive deep on infrastructure, on usage and coverage gaps, on suitable technologies and reliability of services.
We also, David, want to explore the importance of innovative and inclusive policies, regulatory frameworks, and of course approaches that promote investment in connectivity solutions to support affordable access in the hardest to connect communities.
I do want to thank you all again for joining us and I'm very much looking forward to the discussion.
David, back over to you.
>> DAVID KIRKPATRICK:
Thank you, Doreen.
Is Maria Francesca Spatolisano on with us?
>> MARIA FRANCESCA SPATOLISANO:
>> DAVID KIRKPATRICK:
There you are.
So good to have you here.
Maria is with the Secretary‑General's Office of Technology.
Very pleased to hear her talk next. Take it away, thank you so much.
>> MARIA FRANCESCA SPATOLISANO:
Thank you, David.
And thank you for having me today.
Excellences, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen.
I will first of all congratulate you for an extremely and exciting and timely initiatives of Partner2Connect, which the Office of Technology is proud to be part of it.
We see Partner2Connect as critically important for three reasons.
First of all, the goal of universal connectivity is at the heart of the initiative and also is the foundation of the Secretary‑General's vision of an open, free, and security digital future for all, as it is in enframed in the Secretary‑General Roadmap for Digital Cooperation.
And now, also, in his common agenda, which was released in September. So according to the latest figures from ITU and the Doreen mentioned that already, there are still 2.9 billion people that remain unconnected, with almost 96% of these in developing countries.
And while there is a significant increase in people connecting and using online tools due to COVID, I'm also convinced that this was also due to the work and efforts of many of you around this table.
Indeed, in recent years there's been a new urgency, new momentum, and a real push, I would say, for universal, affordable, connectivity from the UN system member states and the stakeholders alike.
Second reach, despite more people being online, and that's good, we cannot be complacent as we need to bring those still not connected online and narrow the digital divide that exists among and within countries. P2C is an opportunity to bring about real action and concrete outcomes, building on important work already done in implementing the Secretary‑General's Digital Cooperation Roadmap.
We especially value P2C's focus on underserved communities and countries, the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries, and Small Island Developing Countries. And moreover as the United Nations begins its journey towards a Global Digital Compact in September, 2023, we see the work being done here as a crucial building block towards this goal, laying the foundations that can and must be done. And finally, the P2C is a coalition of governments, private sector, NGOs, youth, and other stakeholders is a glowing example of what can be achieved through multistakeholder cooperation and partnerships which is at the heart of the IGF mission and community. This is, thus, the perfect place to recommit ourselves to this crucial goal and I look forward to this important discussion.
Please count of course on the full support of the Office of the Tech Envoy.
Thank you very much.
>> DAVID KIRKPATRICK:
Thank you very much, Maria.
Now I'd like to turn it over to Heidi Schroderus‑Fox who is Director of the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.
>> HEIDI SCHRODERUS-FOX:
Thank you very much, Moderator.
Good morning and good afternoon to all of you distinguished participants.
I'm really pleased to be with you here today.
Let me start by thanking ITU for being such a great partner for our office.
OHRLLS, it's a long acronym, has been mentioned, but we are really looking after and supporting the 91 most vulnerable countries of the United Nations Family in the groups of Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries, and Small Island Developing States.
And the focus on these countries is really what is needed to move the needle on universal and affordable connectivity. We all know the scale of the problem, in particular in the 46 Least Developed Countries.
And the numbers are very staggering.
While three‑quarters of the people in the Least Developed Countries are covered by mobile broadband network, only a quarter are using it.
And we also know what is blocking the majority of population in LDCs from using the internet.
That is of course the high price of services and devices.
It's a lack of awareness of the internet and its benefits, a lack in digital skills and also a lack of relevant local content. For LDCs, other structural challenges such as access to electricity exacerbates the digital divide.
We also know that COVID‑19 pandemic has shown us just how important broadband internet is for our well‑being and of course for economic development.
We have to find solutions to that we can shift the discussion and focus on LDCs getting closer to a level of convergence with more advanced economies. Initiatives such as Partner2Connect are crucial for getting more people online.
And I'm very pleased to see that Partner2Connect Digital Coalition links very directly to the upcoming Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, so‑called LDC 5 Conference, which will take place in Doha, Qatar, from 23rd to 27th of January, 2022. I'm pleased to hear that the coalition, and I quote, will foster meaningful connectivity and digital transformation in the hardest to connect communities, and to offer a platform for all stakeholders to engage and mobilize resources, partnerships, and commitments to achieve universal and meaningful connectivity. That so very well encapsulates our hopes for the LDC 5 Conference. LDCs specific conference like this happens only once in a decade so it's a really important opportunity.
The United Nations Secretary‑General and His Highness the Emir of Qatar have invited all the heads of government and state to attend.
So far more than 30 heads of state and government have already confirmed their participation in person and we expect, of course, many more to come in the coming weeks. The LDC 5 Conference is an opportunity for all of us to shape the next ten years of development in the world's most vulnerable countries and to ensure that breaching the digital divide becomes a reality, not just an aspiration.
We want the conference to help establish a new partnership and networks to see through the ambitions that we have for the next ten years.
At the conference, there will be several different tracts.
There will be a youth tract, a parliamentary tract, the tract for the NGOs, and very importantly a Private Sector tract that will be chaired by the President of Microsoft.
And this is an entry point for all of you to participate.
If you have not registered yet, please do so by visiting the LDC 5 Conference website and you will find there all the relevant information, including how to contact my office if you have any questions about the conference. As we look forward to the Fifth UN Conference on LDCs and the next decade of development, I really look forward to working together with all of you in the weeks and years ahead.
Together, we can unlock digital transformation in the hardest to connect communities.
Thank you very much.
>> DAVID KIRKPATRICK:
Thank you so much, Heidi.
The numbers are dire.
The problem is real.
Partnering is the way to solve it.
I'm so gratified to work with you all in the UN, hearing from the UN about the serious priority this problem is receiving.
In the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition there are four focus areas and we're talking about the first one: Connecting people everywhere.
So let's look at a video that explains that in more detail. (Uncaptioned video plays:)
>> ITU estimates that 2.9 billion people have never used the internet.
This means no access to a world of knowledge, opportunities and resources. But how can we connect the 2.9 billion people still offline?
The Partner2Connect Digital Coalition, known as P2C, has been created to help bridge the digital divide by 2030 and win the SDG race.
Through its four focus areas, P2C provides a global platform to mobilize and announce new resources, partnerships, and commitments to achieve universal and meaningful connectivity.
In focus area one, connecting people everywhere, P2C aims to achieve affordable, resilient, and trustworthy connectivity for all, by addressing key issues like infrastructure, coverage and usage gaps, affordability and accessibility of devices and data, technologies, and reliability of service.
Through a collaborative multistakeholder approach, P2C aims to find answers to these issues, define specific gaps, and create an overview of the required interventions, policies, and pledges to bring 2.9 billion people meaningfully online by 2030.
Are you ready to help us bring digital transformation to the hardest to connect communities?
Be part of this global effort.
Pledge for connecting people everywhere, or for any of the other focus areas of the coalition.
Or email us at [email protected] .
>> DAVID KIRKPATRICK:
Well, let's now hear a message from Pamela Coke‑Hamilton, Executive Director of the ITU. (Captioned video plays:)
>> PAMELA COKE‑HAMILTON:
Now more than ever, digital technology plays a central role in our global economy.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, digital technology has chanced the way we live and do business, as more activity is shifted online.
In fact, internet traffic jumped by 48% globally during 2020 alone.
But the growing importance of digital connectivity also drew attention to the growing digital divide.
Many developing countries from Small Island States in the Caribbean to LDCs in Africa are struggling to catch up and join the digital marketplace.
Our analysis of marketplace traffic in Africa, for instance, showed declining activity, a 5% fall between 2017 and 2020.
Most notably, there was a record fall in March, 2020, linked to COVID measures.
Consumers in urban centers such as Nairobi or Lagos made a switch to buying online but for many African countries with lower levels of connectivity, they were left behind in the race to adopt digital economy and enter the e‑commerce space.
This digital divide matters because it holds back many businesses and communities from attaining sustainable economic development.
They're unable to access markets online, local producers remain captive to the insecurity of local markets, they're subject to high costs for middlemen, amid other challenges.
We're at a critical juncture in time.
Our global goal to connect people everywhere is not a far‑fetched dream.
It is an imperative.
Access to digital tools can bring economic opportunities to the most vulnerable.
They can have a major impact on the ways we gather information, plan, connect, and sell better.
These levers of change should be available to everyone, from large international enterprises to small businesses, especially small businesses.
We can make this happen by making technology cheaper, encouraging local innovation, providing accessible financing, and expanding networks.
Through the Partner2Connect initiative we can harness our expertise, resources, and energy.
We are motivated to join you, our partners, across the public/private sector, civil society, to make this a reality.
>> DAVID KIRKPATRICK:
Now we're going to dive a little deeper.
I'd like to introduce Maikel Wilms, who is a partner with BCG, which is the knowledge partner for the Partner2Connect Digital Coaltion, and Walid Mathlouthi, who is Head of the Future Networks and Spectrum Management Division of the ITU, to talk about what some of the key issues are driving change in this connecting people everywhere, and some of the things that we can do about it.
Maikel and Walid, thank you.
>> MAIKEL WILMS:
First of all, taking a step back and looking at the four focus areas and how it all ties together on the next slide, the way we think about this is to make the vision of partnering to connect a reality.
We need to connect supply and demand across three different layers. Consumer devices, infrastructure and connectivity, and the content and services.
And I think the other way that's really critical to understand is that this has to be a long‑term balance.
What we've seen in quite a few emerging markets is after people are online for quite some time they start to see the value, experience the value, ecosystems get developed, and then you get to an equilibrium which can sustain itself.
Now, obviously, we need to ensure that we can get into that situation.
And ensure that we can get to the investments that are needed to make this fly.
If you along at connect to people everywhere, which is the focus of today, the key that I believe we need to solve is how can we get supply and demand to match for both the infrastructure and connectivity and consumer devices to ensure that we can get to the universal and resilient internet that Doreen also talked about.
With that, let me hand it over to Walid who will tell a little bit about how we see the process going forward to identify the issues, and in the end get to a set of pledges.
>> WALID MATHLOUTHI:
So we could go to the next slide.
These four pillars are connecting people everywhere, and in that particular pillar, we are looking at infrastructure, we're looking at affordability.
The second pillar would be building the digital ecosystem by making meaningful content available to empower communities, as for example empower local farmers in rural areas by providing access to weather information or crop optimization.
And last but not least pillar would be to attract investment, financial investments, by trying to minimize the risk and make venture capital investing infrastructure.
So the process towards the communication conference would be initially to identify issues that would drive towards closing the digital divide.
Issues could span from regulation, make inspection available, making existing infrastructure, like existing fiber, to be used for connecting these rural areas, and identifying five to seven issues that will be key in addressing the connectivity challenge. Once we have these key issues identified, for every pillar, then the process would go on to draw a very clear gap analysis with very actionable intervention recommendations.
And that, those recommendations, will be the baseline of, like, the different pledges for the coalition.
So the pledges could span from financial ones, but also regulation ones, like a pledge could be to commit to approve or make available certain regulations that would allot spectrum, for example, for better connectivity.
It could be also infrastructure, pure infrastructure pledges, by making excess capacity available on an existing network to be addressing these challenges.
And the last piece is financial pledges to help bridge this missing connectivity.
Of course, once at the conference, we would like to have an updated check of the different pledges and an updated execution on the different pledges.
Next slide. So if we dig deeper on the focus area of connecting everyone, first of all, there are clear challenges, pretty challenging gaps to bridge.
In number one is from an infrastructure point of view the mobile coverage gap which is around 15‑25% in the Least Developed Countries, LLDCs, and SIDs.
So pretty ‑‑ a quarter of the population in certain areas is not covered by a broadband mobile network.
For instance, in terms of 4G connectivity, we notice in LDCs and Landlocked Developing Countries, the likelihood to be covered by 4G LTE network is twice less likely than the average at the global level.
The other piece of challenge is the usage or the content challenge.
So the usage gap, it's six times larger than the coverage gap, even though people are connected to a broadband network they're not able to use it in a proper way to make it beneficial to their communities. So 3.4 billion people have coverage but do not use the internet because of the knowledge and skill gap.
In addition, there's the urban/rural divide, which is urban dwellers are, on a global level, twice as likely to use the internet as opposed to the rural population.
In landlocked countries, that ratio is 4.
63% to 18% of urban dwellers as compared to the rural population. The last piece is about affordability and financial investment in the network.
We are still very far from the target of 2% of affordability of the cost of the broadband connectivity.
And that's partly also because of the cost of building the fiber for to connect these metros and these cities in the LDCs and LLDCs.
So the last challenge would be to incentivize investment for a better backbone fiber and a better, like, intermetro and metro ring network. And back to you, Maikel.
>> MAIKEL WILMS:
Thank you, Walid.
If we could move to the next slide, I think what this shows is a whole set of factors that actually drive all of the observations and the numbers that Walid just presented. So let me quickly run through what we see here. Obviously, there's substantial gaps still in infrastructure, as Walid said.
About 25% of the LDCs are not covered by a mobile broadband network.
But on top of that, we also have energy and especially electricity availability as a key challenge, especially when we look at many of the villages.
And obviously, this is caused by underlying constraints from geography.
Many of these places are hard to reach, maybe in hilly or mountainous terrain, or other areas, et cetera, which makes it more expensive to build than in quite a few other places. On a technical aspect, there's also a spectrum of availability.
Obviously, if we have more spectrum available, and especially low‑frequency spectrum, the business case to invest for the private operators becomes a whole lot better.
So mobilizing the spectrum fairly quickly is then, of course, a very important aspect.
And then lastly, reliability of service.
As Walid said, in quite a few places there's very little backbone and fiber which negatively impacts the reliability of service.
Reliability of service especially becomes important when people start to depend on the internet for their livelihoods.
So we also need to think about that as we think through what do we want the infrastructure. Affordability is clearly the most critical part here.
And that means somehow we need to find a way to get to cheaper data plans that are in line with what people with afford.
I'm pretty sure Eleanor will talk about that in a bit.
There's also predatory pricing, which obviously will need to be avoided.
Beyond the plans, there's then the device cost.
Obviously, without a device, the internet is nothing.
And clearly, a smartphone is a good starting point, but preferably you also want something of a large screen device.
The cost of these devices for many families is clearly too expensive today and that's also something where we believe we would need to address. When it comes to social determinants, I think there's a whole set of factors that drive that consumers, citizens, may not prioritize the internet.
That obviously affects to what extent they want to pay for internet.
Obviously, food, water, et cetera, supersedes connectivity.
But there's also, I think, a set of aspects around how can we make internet access more of a driving factor in the community and make it more important.
Last but not least there's then a whole set of underlying policy and regulation aspects that we need to consider.
First of all, certainty, consistency, and simplicity in regulatory policies. I'm pretty sure Joakim will touch upon that, as well.
It's a critical determinant for investors when they decide to invest in Infrastructure or not.
Link to that, also, of course, economic stimulus and support for investment in the hardest to reach area, and ensure that there's no high cost associated with the deployment coming out of the governments, whether it's license fee regulations, spectrum pricing, waylay fees, et cetera, et cetera, which all drive up the cost.
Obviously, that's a trade‑off because it is also an important part of government budgets.
But when we look at the impact of connectivity also on GDP and taxes, we believe it's an investment worth taking also from a government finance perspective. And lastly, ensuring that technology can also be phased out.
It's an important driver of cost reduction for the overall system and it's a driver that we need to make everything affordable. So moving to the next slide, where as a starting point for discussion, we've tried to set up a number of, well, commitments, maybe we can call it potential pledges to just the pledges, that we believe can really help drive connecting people everywhere.
First of all, for private players, try to take a longer term horizon and take into account that once people get to understand and experience the internet, their willingness and ability to pay will probably go up.
We've seen that in many, many places from Brazil to South Africa to Indonesia.
Facilitating faster build from a government perspective.
Really create effective USO schemes.
There's much more money available than is being used in a lot of the USOs which is just a waste.
Fourthly, figure out how we can combine building ICT infrastructure and energy in a combined way.
We've looked at this in the context of this over the summer and we believe there's substantial synergy when you look another how to connect the village to electricity and the internet.
And clearly, we need to make sure these communities are changed.
That's mainly in the other focus area but we wanted to call it out here as well. When it comes to affordability, we do see some smartphones which reach below the 100 USD point, but let's try to get it below 50.
Secondly, create data packages that allow people to experiment the internet and to use it for some time, maybe below cost, and really ensure that everyone in these villages can see what the benefits are, not only for entertainment, but also for getting market prices, get weather information, and really show it can help drive their daily lives. And then, of course, deploy cheaper technologies. On the policy regulation side, change spectrum license rules, enable communities to build their own network as well in addition to the private players, and lastly ensure that network sharing is allowed and maybe even pushed. David, back to you.
>> DAVID KIRKPATRICK:
Thank you, Maikel.
Thank you, Walid.
So now we're going to really have a more conversational portion of the program.
We have several eminent speakers who will react to what they've heard so far.
And first, I want to invite Her Excellency Ursula Owusu‑Ekuful, the Minister of Communications in Digitalization of Ghana.
Give your reaction to what you just heard so far?
Ursula, I hope you're there in your chair.
We don't see you.
I'll tell you what ‑‑ there you are.
Did you hear my question?
I just wanted you to respond to what you've heard so far and how you feel about the urgency of this challenge and what we can do.
>> URSULA OWUSU-EKUFUL:
I missed the last bit of the presentation.
I just got up to see.
It was a problem with my connection.
>> DAVID KIRKPATRICK:
We know how that is.
>> URSULA OWUSU-EKUFUL:
Thank you, Excellencies.
It's a privilege to be sharing this platform with such distinguished personalities to talk about a subject that is of interest to everyone, and is at the heart of the work that we do.
And yes, as has been indicated, without connectivity, life as we know it as has been exemplified by the pandemic would come to a halt, but we can't leave everyone behind.
All of us have a role to play, governments, equipment, manufacturers, network operators, and citizens. And we can't just concentrate on the large commercial centers and leave the hard‑to‑reach hard‑served and underserved areas behind. So listening to the last presentation, it's just as if he was mirroring what we're actually trying to do on the ground here in Ghana.
We need all parties to work actively together to ensure that we deliver connectivity, smart devices, at affordable rates to service everywhere and to provide the relevant content and services that they would actually utilize, and digital skills indispensable to that.
There's absolutely no use providing this infrastructure if people don't know how to use it and use it to the fullest.
And it's in our interest because it drives growth and economic development in our various countries as well. And I think it's important that for those of us who have access to subC cables as well, we build our borders to enable our landlocked neighbors to connect and utilize the capacity that woulduncover for them, as well.
It is also absolutely critical for all of us to see how we can leverage on assets owned by the state, and I'm talking about fiber assets that state‑owned agencies may hold.
Break down the silos, connect those fiber assets, and utilize them as backbone to deliver those services to underserved and little served areas.
They did mention satellite connectivity as well.
The cost of it was prohibitive in some states, but I think it's come down considerably.
So we need to consider technology mix to see how we can actually extend services to the hardest to reach parts of our country. And from our own experience, working in partnership with the private sector makes it much easier because it reduces the cost.
We're leveraging on our universal service fund through our investment fund for electricity communications, working in partnership with metro operators, and government itself is paying for the cost of extending connectivity and the infrastructure to the hardest to reach areas. And the network operators are leveraging on that network to provide services.
And we think it's a win‑win situation which can be replicated.
We've thrown in the spectrum as government contribution to it, government is providing the licensing, land acquisition, the permitting, and all of that to facilitate the rule out of the infrastructure.
It's actually paying for the infrastructure.
And then cost‑sharing as a way of maintaining and sustaining this network. And it has mandated the use of UNTS technology in the 900 megahertz band, and LTU backholding solution for our rural citizens.
And we've seen a considerable uptake wherever those networks have been turned on around the country.
So with shared infrastructure which is mandated, national roaming which is also mandated on this network, which has been provided at lower cost, visual telephoning network delivers services below the commercial rate, because of this partnership that we've engendered.
We believe that that's a way to deliver services to the people at lower cost.
And so looking at all the various possibilities, we can work together quite well in the classic PPP arrangement, where the private sector partners also contribute a bit as part of their corporal social responsibility for skills acquisition, literacy, and training, and so that we can have a full ‑‑ cover the full loop of all that is required to extend connectivity to those who need it most in our online areas and ensure that we actually leave no one behind.
>> DAVID KIRKPATRICK:
Thank you so much, Your Excellency.
Joakim, we're so happy to have you here representing Vodafone.
Business perspective is critical.
Talk to us about what you've heard and what you think about what private sector and public sector and Civil Society can do to work together to drive this forward.
>> JOAKIM REITER:
Thank you very much, David, and thanks for having me.
It's very easy to follow up from the Honorable Minister, because I'm singing from the same script, it feels like.
Just to say, post COVID, that's an important change that's happening.
The overarching comment that brought us together under Doreen's stewardship is very much around the fact that COVID has pushed our understanding of what is possible, sometimes in the most horrific ways, but sometimes in most eye‑opening ways, and we need to embrace the boldness that COVID has forced upon us.
And I think Partner2Connect provides exactly the vehicle to do that. Now, if I had to summarize this very good commentary by a number of speakers, but from a private sector point of view, even if I'm in a supply side business predominantly, and I do demand side as well, but when you're looking at rolling out networks you're very much looking at supply side constraints. The understanding of how we bring supply and demand to stimulate and change the economic models is going to be actually key to get the Private Sector heavily involved in this.
I would like to highlight three things strongly in our calculation of any investment case, first, of course, is the policy environment.
We're talking about the way I would summarize it is if you build railways you have a 75‑year amortization period.
Building telecom networks is anywhere between 7 to 14 years amortization period.
At the same time, it doubles the capital intensity of railways.
So you have to think it's almost like building a full national railway network with no time, a tenth of the time, to recover the cost, but double the total amount that you have to deploy.
Economically it's incredibly dangerous to have unpredictability in the environment, whether it's pro‑investment friendly.
Concrete examples, cost of rollout, spectrum fees, and the like, and just to say Ghana and a number of other African countries did a fantastic job during COVID to meet the capacity needs of their citizens by issuing temporary license, temporary spectrum, to exactly meet the needs of their citizens and it took a lot of pressure off the network.
There's a lot of things that need to happen in the policy space as to support investment that is excruciatingly difficult to do the minute you go beyond urban centers which is obviously what all of us will have to do.
The second thing is you can change the economics, per se, by doing a number of things.
First is policy to make sure the economics is right.
Second is the economics itself.
Operators like ourselves and our competitors, we're all prepared now to innovate around co‑investment schemes that the minister referred to, or shared rural network deployments that we're doing in a number of jurisdictions, like in the case of Vodafone.
We're looking increasingly for co‑investment and co‑funding opportunities with international financial institutions to sort of manage the capital intensity coming with significant investment into networks. The third thing that absolutely needs to be done, again refer to the minister and something that we are toying around a lot with, is that we have innovative network equipment in the past, and we need to have a next wave of innovation and drive down the cost of what it costs to roll out a base station.
That's where we're exploring solutions.
We're exploring satellite solutions.
That may well be a fantastic backup network that we can run or for deep rural networks.
So across all policy and economic technological levers we have to assess them and try to pull all levers at the same time.
If I could overlay that with three quick horizontal points that I think should guide any discussion on solving the unacceptable connectivity gaps and usage gap, first, is that we do need to have a very strong probe pore lens and also a lens on the underserved.
I would find ‑‑ if I had to have one piece of criticism against the previous slide it was that it wasn't highlighted the underserved and particularly women and girls that you need to have a gender lens onto deployment of networks as well as on terms of identifying things that involve them into the internet economy to the extent that we don't see today. Second is on synergies.
Rightly so, it was pointed out that you have an energy security synergy that can be exploited, but I would add, also, you have a financial inclusion synergy through mobile money, as well as a food security synergy in the sense that you can empower and improve the yields of small holder farmers and improve their livelihoods through bringing connectivity. The financial thing, something I've been pushing very hard, and it's difficult, but this platform provides an incredible opportunity to do it, we need to have a whole of a village approach.
When you connect the village, you're not actually connecting a village.
You're creating an ability for small holder farmers to have access to new markets, or educational platforms that suddenly the kids can go to school, an energy solution, creating a library.
There's so many things in terms of the business casing for connecting a village that currently is dealt with in a sequential way rather than a whole of a village way. I think that's where also governments and international institutions can be really strong force of creating these consortium where all the different parts come together and therefore changes the business case together.
>> DAVID KIRKPATRICK:
Thank you, Joakim.
Let's go back to the room and we'll hear from the Alliance for the Affordable Internet, Eleanor Sarpong.
There you are.
>> ELEANOR SARPONG:
I'm right here.
My initial reaction to when Maikel and Walid were making their presentation, I was nodding my head, because it's like preaching to the choir.
I'm also going to sing from the same hymn sheets.
It's very disheartening to see that, you know, LDCs, the internet affordability and LDCs, is quite dire.
That people are paying close to 10% of their average monthly income on 1 gigabyte of data.
This is way above the standard of 2%.
If you think about it, this is the equivalent of how much people spend on housing in developed countries.
And so there's a lot we need to do in order to change this narrative. The other thing that also struck me in the presentation was that you see that the coverage gaps are very, very wide, especially in rural areas.
I also noticed that 4G connectivity was very, very low in LDCs.
So it typically says that we do not have many full connectivity in a lot of these regions.
If we're thinking about getting to 2030 we need to do much better.
We need to collaborate more.
The collaboration is not just between public sector and private sector.
We need to have Civil Society in the room as well.
And Civil Society can play very crucial role.
I want to mention just three.
I think the Civil Society can be very useful for, in amplifying the rural and call‑in action on issues that we need to take care of.
The first is about producing evidence.
I feel that Civil Society can amplify the research that we see.
This research that has been conducted by the ITU and BCG, we're doing similar.
For us to make a persuasive argument we need to make sure the evidence we have is very grounded and it's also focusing on the areas that we need change on. So FYI, for instance, we focus on affordability research.
For the first time we focus on LDCs that showed that there's a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure that LDCs are able to overcome the huge hurdles that we've already heard about in terms of connectivity, spectrum, geographies, and the like. But also beyond that, we also have been focusing on specific vulnerable communities and groups.
For example, at A4AI, our foundation, we conduct digital gender gap audits of low and middle income countries to assess the policy efforts and progress they're making on national levels to close the digital gender gap.
And I like Joakim's point of looking at the gender gaps which are very, very critical.
For the first time this year, we also decided to conduct research on the cost of excluding women from the digital economy.
It was staggering to note that governments are missing out on billions of dollars because of the digital gender gap. If we're able to close this gap in the next five years, just before 2030, we would be able to rake in about 524 billion U.S. dollars.
This is an opportunity for us to be able to do a very good deal of work in our various economies. So across the world, we realize that if we are going to be able to work for connecting LDCs, we can't just focus on just a holistic.
We need to desegregate the data and look at how women and girls are being connected in various, in these specific countries. The second area that I think that Civil Society can also play a very crucial role is through convenings and collaborations.
We have seen the opportunity that Partner2Connect is creating, but I also wanted to center that there's a lot of work already being done in this space and we can amplify and collaborate further. So alliance for affordable internet, we've been working very closely with various governments and I'm very happy to see Minister Ursula is here.
She's one of or partners in Ghana.
We need global action.
It's lovely to come to she's meetings but you notice around the room there are very few people from LLDC because it's very expensive to be in this space physically and sometimes connectivity challenges also make sure we don't get to hear their voices.
So it's important that we move from global action to local action.
We need to make sure that these coalitions that we're forming are working also at local levels, we are collaborating with local organizations, to make sure that the actions we need to take are owned by the communities and that they can also support the efforts that we need to put in. So in a nutshell, we need to amplify research.
We need to desegregate the data and make sure the research is inclusive, and we also need to localize action to ensure that communities are well‑represented and also have a say in the way connectivity decisions are made on their behalf.
>> DAVID KIRKPATRICK:
Thank you so much, Eleanor. Now, we are very happy to have with us His Excellency Mohamed Shareef, Minister of State for Environment, Climate Change, and Technology in the Maldives, which is an extremely important role and one a lot of us think about.
We're happy to have him here for all kinds of reasons.
Your Excellency, please, I think you're in the room.
>> MOHAMED SHAREEF:
Thank you David.
It's wonderful to be here and to actually hear about this new initiative.
I think in the Maldives context, I think I'm the only one here representing the SIDs, Small Island Developing States.
If you look at Maldives, for example, we're around 1,000 or 1,100 islands, but when you put all these islands together it still makes about 1% of the country.
Sometimes we're saying it's a Small Island Developing State is also misleading because it's really a large ocean nation.
How do you connect people across this large ocean?
I think I definitely welcome this initiative here at the Maldives.
We have 100% 4G coverage of our population but we have an issue with affordability.
Currently, the data pricing in Maldives is actually in the top 10 most expensive countries in the world.
This is not where we would love to be.
We would like to move from there. We're doing a number of things.
Recently from the COVID we have introduced a new standard for broadband connectivity which ensures that no residential internet package ever is cut.
In other words, the minimum broadband connectivity to remain at 2 mbps or 5 mbps unlimited.
Having unlimited packages is a luxury we cannot afford at the moment so we would like to see how initiatives like this would further connect us and reduce data and internet in the country.
We're working actually to connect Maldives to internet submarine cables and systems as how we're currently doing it in Sri Lanka with cables but we want to go beyond that and diversify our internet to the internet backbone.
At the same time, we're working to modernize our spectrum management, but I think the gains we have had so far including about 70% of the population having fiber to their homes is not enough when we talk about real meaningful connectivity because we've got to work on quality of service and we've got to work on affordability.
So really, I look forward to this initiative and to support this initiative, especially the SIDs context of actually having to be connected in a large ocean, small island state.
This is what I would like to see, how this initiative will evolve to support everyone and leave no one behind.
>> DAVID KIRKPATRICK:
Thank you so much.
We can't ignore the fact that connectivity is going to help us respond to climate change and global warming.
So it's very related to your work in that way as well.
Super important discussion we've been having here.
I just so many topics that have been mentioned that could each bear an entire hour of further discussion.
The great thing about these sessions though I think is they give us a huge amount to talk about in a very compressed format so I congratulate Doreen and her team for putting that together again and I would like to ask Doreen to join and give us a little further summary from her point of view.
>> DOREEN BOGDAN-MARTIN:
I think we're sort of just scratching the surface here.
We could certainly go into this in much more detail but I do want to thank everyone.
I think today helped us see the scale of the problem, some of the key issues.
I found the interventions just great.
I think the good news is that we are singing from the same script; although, trust me, I definitely can't sing.
The other good news is that connecting people everywhere is a business case that's worth it.
So I think that's a really important takeaway for me.
And Eleanor's point, I think it was 524 billion, if we close the digital gender gap.
That's really encouraging.
I think David it's time, what I'm hearing, is that it's time to move from aspiration to reality, and we have to connect the unconnected.
It's an imperative.
Of course, connectivity is a lever of change, what we've heard from everyone.
But if we want to win that SDG race we do need to ensure that all people, women, girls, youth, vulnerable groups, have access to digital technologies.
Of course, I think Eleanor's point of stressing the importance of community ownership and localized action is also really important.
I think it can be done.
I think we can also do better.
And of course, I think partnership is key.
It was great to hear some of the examples from Ghana of the successful PP Ps that are working there.
Indeed, COVID has pushed us to make possible what we thought was impossible, building on Joakim's statement.
I think that we can make possible affordable trusted connectivity for all.
As Minister Ursula said, we do, all of us, have a role to play.
I invite you as we wrap up to join us at P2C.
Much more to come.
And let's make it happen together.
Thanks, David, back to you.
>> DAVID KIRKPATRICK:
We'll do additional sessions on empowering communities and building digital ecosystems and building investments, all of these necessarily come together, in the future.
Of many points raised, I really think this issue of involving women and girls and making that a priority is one we cannot lose sight of.
Thank you everybody for a really intense and powerful session.
Don't leave yet because we have a little video to show you before you leave, but please do join us in future sessions.
And thank you whether you're in Katowice or around the world on Zoom.
I'm so pleased and proud to be part of this.
Thank you again to Doreen and ITU for everything.
Let's see that closing video and see you all again soon. (Captioned video plays:)
>> In the wake of the COVID‑19 pandemic, ITU has redoubled its efforts to help countries rapidly expand connectivity to reach the billions of people who are still offline.
Building on the outcomes of the ITU road to add its digital development series in coordination with the Office of the Secretary‑General's Envoy on Technology, and in line with the UN Secretary‑General's Roadmap for Digital Cooperation the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition is a multistakeholder alliance to foster meaningful connectivity and digital transformation in the hardest to connect communities with a focus on, but not limited to, Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries, and Small Island Developing States.
Based on the principles of inclusion, partnership and SDG‑focused digital development, Partner2Connect will serve as a leadership platform to mobilize new resources, partnerships, and commitments across four focus areas: Connecting people everywhere, empowering communities, building digital ecosystems, and incentivizing Investments.
Time is running out in this decade of action.
We must join forces now and work together to extend universal access and empower the half of humanity who is still offline to make use of digital connectivity, to transform lives, communities, and societies.
Visit www.itu.int/partner to connect. (Session ends at 8:37 a.m. CT.)